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BY JAMES SMITH
Prove me now, MA.L. iii. 10. THE Lord loves to have his people near to him, walking closely with him, and proving the constancy of his care and love. But they neglect him, wander from him, and grieve his loving heart. Still, he cannot neglect them ; he will not give them up, but calls after them, " Return unto me, and I will return unto you." He expostulates with them, " Will a man rob God ?" He charges siii upon them, that he may affect them, and bring them to repentance ; he says, " Ye have robbed me." And he tells them in what, even in withholding their " tithes and offerings." He tells them they are "under a curse," even the " whole nation ;" surely, then, he will disown, discard, and give them up. o, anything but this. He exhorts them to duty, to put him to the proof, and pledges himself to open the windows of heaven, and pour out such a blessing, that there should not be room enough to receive it. Wondrous grace this ! Astonishing display of forbearance and condescending mercy ! Beloved we are in similar circumstances and God speaks to us in this word. We have wandered from him, we have robbed him, we are under his frown, and he invites us to ''prove him now." Let ns fix our attention upon these words a few moments.
152 THE TEST. lirst, let us look at the period, " OW." It
was a season of darkness : for sin had drawn a cloud over them. The San of Righteousness did not shine upon them. The ordinances of God were not attended with power. The saints were not lively. The priests were not devout, devoted and determined in God's cause. The daughter of Zion was covered with a cloud. It was a trying time. Their labours were not crowned with success. Selfishness characterized most of the people. They were questioning God's distinguishing love to them. The ordinances were changed. Men kept the best for themselves, and offered only the refuse to God, even "the blind and the lame." God's altar was polluted, his day was profaned, and his name was dishonoured. They had long been in a backsliding state, and they had spoken stoutly against God. The season, therefore, was very discouraging. What could they expect? What could they plead? . How could they look to the Lord to do any great thing for them ? Whether they looked at themselves, or at the chnrch, back to the past, or around on the present, every thing looked discouraging, and was calculated to cast them down. And now it is that the Lord appears ; he says, I am willing to receive you, to bless you, and to restore you to prosperity and dignity; "PROVE ME OW." Observe, Secondly, the direction,? exhortation, -"PROVE ME." Examine my promises. What have I led you to expect ? Y/hat have I promised to give"?
THE TEST. 153 How do you read in my word ? Take the promises which I have made, look narrowly into them, examine them carefully, and see what they
contain. Read the history of my church. See what I have done for my people. Look back, and converse with the years that are gone by. " Remember the years of the right hand of ttie Most High." Attend to my requirements. Do what I bid you, and do it because I bid you. Set your heart upon my house, and seek to promote my cause. Show zeal in my service, and concern for my honour. " Bring all the tithes into the storehouse." Be .just for God. Be honest to your profession. Perform, your vows. Pulnl your engagements. Deny yourselves, and act in character as professors of my holy religion. Put yourself into such a condition, that 1 can bestow my blessing upon you honourably. Show that you repent of your selfishness, dishonesty, and various sins. Prove that you honestly desire my smile, my sanction, and my blessing. Meet me in my house, and " let us reason together." Meet me at my throne, and " let us piead together." Let it be seen that you really want a revival of religion, and that you are in down right earnest to obtain my blessing. Put away all shams, all make-believes, all mere formal Ceremonies, and return to the days of thy youth, Por "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thpu weutest after me in the wilderness, in a laud that was not gown, Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and
154 THE TEST. the first fruits of his increase " was dedicated. Be hearty now, as you were then. Be decided now, as you were then. Be unworldly now as you were then. Carry out the precepts of my word now, as you did then. This is the way to prove me. To this invite you. To this course
I exhort you. 3?or I wait to be gracious unto you ; I desire to do you good. "What say you ? Will you prove me and obtain a blessing ? Beloved, God wishes us to prove the truth of his word. The willingness of his heart to bless us. His word is true, and yet many of his promises are not fulfilled to us. How is it? It must be, that they imply conditions which we have not fulfilled, or a state of mind to which we have not attained. He desires us to prove the faithfulness of his character, as a promising and performing God. His faithfulness is like the great mountains. His faithfulness reaches to the clouds. He cannot forfeit his character, or deny himself. Still, some of the promises which suit us, are not fulfilled to us. How is it ? God is faithful. He is true to his word. Yes, but we have been unfaithful. We have been false and fickle. We have gone away from his ordinances, and have not kept them. He has righteously hid his face from us, and withheld the promised blessing. His heart has been grieved by us, and, therefore, his hand has not been open to us. But now he says, " Repent and turn from your evil ways," and prove the truth of my / and my faithfulness to my character as a
THE TEST. 155 prayer-hearing and promise-performing God. He would have us prove the unchangeableness of his nature. He says, " 1 am Jehovah, 1 change not." I am now just what I was in the days of your prosperity; I am what I was when I delivered your fathers from Egypt, brought back my people from Babylon, and wrought wonderously by my word in apostolic times. There has been no
change in me, the change is in you. You have changed, and you must change again. You must come back to the point from which you wandered. When you do so, you will find me the same God, the same loving Father ; and see that I am as ready to receive, to pardon, and to give good things, as ever I was in the days of old. You must shoAV the same love to my truth, the same zeal in my cause, the same tenderness of my honour, the same faith at my throne, the same fervour in my service, the same readiness to support my interest, the same desire for the conversion of souls, the same affection for my people, and the same dedication to my service, and then " I will open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, and there shall, not be room enough to receive it." Beloved, God loves to fee put to the test. He says to us, " Try me ; but do it honestly, from a real desire to obtain and enjoy my blessing. See if you observe my precepts, whether I will not soon fulfil my promises." He gives us opportunities for trying him. Times of trouble, times of comparative barrenness, times like the present
156 THE TEST. are opportunities to prove the Lord. He honours obedience to his own directions, attention to his own exhortations. For though onr obedience cannot merit any thing at his hand, or obeying deserve his blessing, yet he has so connected obedience and blessing, that \ve have no right to expect the one without the other. The rule by which he proceeds in blessing his church is, " Them that honour me, I will honour." Thus lie secures our sauctification, while lie manifests
his sovereign and nnmerited grace. He speaks to every reader of this piece, to every member of his O E CHURCH, to every sonl that is desirous of being useful in the world, or that longs to see his cause prosper and nourish, and he says, " PROVE ME OW." " I will bless you, if you are willing to be blessed. I will make you a blessing if yon are prepared to observe my directions. I will be God, I will be the Sovereign, I will be Master, I will maintain my rights, even while I confer my favours, and if you. are willing that I should be so, and will prove it by yonr conduct, then I will pour yon out a blessing." See, then, why we have not had the blessing. There has been some Achan, some golden wedge, some Babylonish garment, in the camp. Some sin has been indulged, some Agag has been spared, some duty has been neglected, some cross has been avoided, or some sacrifice has been withheld. But, after all, God says to us again, " PROVE ME OW." It is not too late. My hand is not closed for
THE TEST. 157 ever. I have not recalled my promise. I have not left the throne of grace, I have not shut up my loving-kindness in displeasure. Brethren let us examine, determine, return to the Lord, put him to the proof and obtain the much needed blessing. Supreme High-priest, the pilgrim's light My heart for thee prepare ; Thine image stamp, and deeply write Thy superscription there :
Ah, let my forehead bear thy seal, My arm thy badge retain, My heart the inward witness feel That I am born again ! Into thy humble mansion come, Set up thy dwelling here ; Possess my heart, and leave no room For sin to harbour there : Ah, give me, Lord, the single eye, Which aims at nought but thee ; I fain would live, and yet not I Let Jesus live in me. O that the penetrating sight And eagle's eye were mine ! Unda/zled at the boundless light, Of majesty divine ; That with the armies of the sky I too may sit and sing, Add, Saviour, to the eagle's eye, The dove's aspiring wing.
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